A fisheries and wildlife resource indicator system for use in natural resource management

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The development of a fisheries and wildlife indicator system is described. The system is intended to serve as a planning and policymaking aid for state fisheries and wildlife agencies and to enhance communications between state agencies and the public. The conceptual basis for the indicator system derives from the field of social indicators research and rests on the premise that explicit decisionmaking methods are more desirable than intuition and subjective methods.

Four major steps were involved in developing the fisheries and wildlife indicator system. The first step was assessing the current availability of resource information and involved analyzing state fisheries and wildlife agency annual reports. Administrative information was emphasized in reports over fisheries and wildlife resources and their use. States rarely reported trend statistics that allow comparisons over time to be made. Reports contained a mixture of quantitative and qualitative information, but contained few tables and graphs compared to the amount of text. Assessing the type, quality, and quantity of performance information currently available laid the base for subsequent work on the indicator system.

The second step was developing a comprehensive classification framework representing all aspects of the fisheries and wildlife resource. The framework, a 16-cell matrix including the resource categories of People, Populations, Habitat, and Administration, and the resource components of Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Impacts, contained 82 separate resource characteristics representing the universe of concerns and responsibilities faced in state-level fisheries and wildlife management.

The third step was identifying indicators representative of each characteristic in the framework. Through an extensive analysis of fisheries and wildlife literature, agency documents, and social assessment literature, 377 indicators were identified. Based on appropriateness and availability of each indicator, 242 indicators were recommended for monitoring by state fisheries and wildlife agencies.

The last step in the process was describing the use of the fisheries and wildlife indicator system, how the system can fit into an agency's administrative structure and planning programs, and how its use may affect the future of fisheries and wildlife management.